Dad to the Princial’s Office


I got in trouble at school on Thursday.  I thought I was going to get sent to the principal’s office.  I deserved it though.  Didn’t do my homework correctly.

This is the story of my life, and I can’t figure out what’s wrong with me.  Why can’t I get this stuff right?

It started with the permission slips for Michelle’s fourth grade school trip to the beach.  There were several.  The problem was that you had to open the school newsletter, read the school newsletter, and then open Michelle’s teacher’s newsletter, at the bottom of the original newsletter, to find the link to find the forms to print them out to fill them out to send them back to school.  Once I had the link, I had to find the school website.  Once on the website, I had to open my personal excel spreadsheet that contains all of my passwords and user names so that I could indeed log in to find and print the forms.

Oh, my excel spreadsheet is password protected, by me (sneaky huh?).  If I ever forget the password to my password spreadsheet, I’m up “sheet” creek.

Michelle announced at dinner one night that she was the only kid in her class who had not turned in the forms and that they were overdue.  I wonder how that makes her feel?  Probably not too good.

“I didn’t see them in your Friday folder.”

“They weren’t in my Friday folder.  You have to print them out yourself, they’re on the school  website.”

I’m sure most parents have the login to their child’s school website memorized.  Mine is up there in the ole steel trap, along with my work login, my blog login, my personal email logins, DJ’s school’s login, my Orbitz and American Airlines logins, my Zappos logins, the login and password to stop my mail when we go on vacation and the login to two bank accounts and two investment accounts.  Not to mention my retirement account login, the HR login for work which is a separate software, the login info for the kids’ service club, the foul weather login for youth basketball in the winter, Facebook and Twitter and Instagram so I can make sure my kids aren’t posting inappropriate photos of themselves or cyber bullying.

So I got the paperwork turned in but forgot to have Michelle sign the behavior agreement form, which we had gone over, in detail, on our way home from dance one evening.  Apparently you did not have to sit or sleep with your trip “buddy” but you did have to know where they were at any given time.

When we arrived at school at 5:45 AM, I walked up to the school nurse to give her Michelle’s allergy pill.  I had already turned in the “official” typed up form that I easily found on the school website, well, once I got logged on.

“Hello nurse.  I have Michelle’s medicine right here.”  I was so proud of myself.  The pill was in a zip lock bag with the name of the medication, dosage, along with instructions for dispersing the pill and my signature.  I’d even written her name on the biggie with a black Sharpie marker.

“Mr. Tanner, can you read?” Nurse asked in a kind yet firm tone.

“Why yes.  In fact, I can write too!”

“It clearly stated on the medical form that you needed to have a doctor’s signature for any medication.”

“It’s over the counter.”  I had her!!!

“Signature for ALL medications, even over the counter.  It says so clearly on the form.”

“Geeze.  Even over the counter?”

“Yes.  And, the pill is supposed to be in the original container Mr. Tanner.”

“Not a zip lock bag?”


“But it has her name on it, with a black Sharpie PERMANENT marker.”  We aren’t talking Crayola here.

“No, Mr. Tanner.”


I should have just taped the pill to her chest.  It was tiny.  They would have thought it was a button.

From now on, I’m going to do better.  I’m going to read every word of every newsletter, web site, email and document from all schools, teachers, camps, church leaders, piano teachers, dance instructors, basketball coaches, Service Club leaders, theater personnel, doctors or nurses, afterschool counselors, singing group coordinators, friend’s moms and the Gap.  I’m going to have to quit my job, but I’m going to read them all.


report card

Apparently Miss Stephanie had a tough semester.  She realized Friday that the quarter was coming to an end on the following Tuesday, and Little Bit’s six A’s from last semester were appearing to turn into one A and five B’s.

Thankfully, it is not her fault.

“This quarter was not a full nine weeks.  It was shorter,” she argued.

“Stephanie, I assure you that the third quarter is exactly ¼ of the school year.  It is the same length as the first and second ones.”

“No dad.  It isn’t.  This one was like four weeks!”

“So it was an eighth?  I see.  The school calendar has two quarters and then an eighth, probably followed by another quarter, and then possibly another eighth.  Makes perfectly good sense to me.”

“Besides, the teachers didn’t give us enough graded assignments this time.  We had like two grades in each class!”

“Two?   Only two graded assignments in each class the entire semester?”

“I don’t know exactly.  But it wasn’t a lot.”

“Probably ‘cause they only had half the time as the last quarter.”

“Yea.  Oh, and like the math tests had like 50 questions on them, and I could hardly finish.”

“That does seem like a lot of questions.”

“Yea.  And for every one you miss the teacher marks off 5 points from your grade!”

“Humm.  So if my math is correct, you could score as much as 250 points on that test?”


“Well, if there are 50 questions and each one counts 5 points, it seems to me you could get a grade of 250.  If you did well on a test like that, it is bound to bring your grade up.  That’s a lot of points.”

“Whatever…”  she was getting ticked.

“Baby, four things:

1)       It’s not that big of a deal

2)      You need to keep up with your grades and figure out mid quarter where you’re struggling so that you’ll have time to pull them  up – two days just won’t do it

3)      You’re tired, you need to go to bed

4)      and I love you.”

Lisa would have checked her grades on a weekly basis.  This is partially my fault.  I guess we both learned a lesson this eighth, err, I mean quarter.

(Since writing this post, I think we may have actually pulled in a couple more A’s, like maybe four!  She probably got a 239 on her last math test.)

My Hypothesis

Science Project

I have a hypothesis:  The Science Fair is a pain in the butt.

I have another hypothesis:  Most parents hate their child’s science teacher during the weeks prior to the Science Fair.

Here is my proof –

Today I spent three hours coloring with magic markers.  Michelle’s hypothesis is that Sharpie markers last longer than Crayola or the Target generic brand.  She is correct.  I have the marker stains on my kitchen countertops and my middle finger knuckle to prove it.

And how did testing magic markers become science?  She’ll probably grow up and get a job at Consumer Reports.

At our school, science projects are mandatory for all 4th and 7th graders.  Since my children were born in three-year increments, we typically have two mandatories at a time.

When DJ was 8, my overeager third grader decided she and her friend would enter a project into the Science Fair for extra credit.  Who needs frickin’ extra credit when they already have an A?

Her friend’s father was an engineer so he spearheaded the project.  We met at my office.  The experiment had something to do with conductivity.  I thought we were going to the symphony.  Imagine my disappointment when we met at my office, and he pulled out a bunch of wires.

He meticulously explained each step of the electrical process, and if I recall correctly, at the end he told us we were right about our hypothesis.  The problem was that neither third grader, nor one of the third grader’s fathers understood what we had done.

When he left my office, DJ looked at me puzzled, “Dad, I didn’t really understand that.”

“Me neither.  Wanna go to the symphony?”

When Lisa was sick, Stephanie decided her project would be to determine if Zip Lock bags, fold over sandwich bags or plastic wrap kept vegetables fresher longer.  It was January, and Lisa was recovering from surgery to remove her tumor.

On this Sunday morning, Stephanie and I decided it was about time to tackle the project which was due in three weeks.  We headed to the grocery store to buy our goods:  baggies and plastic wrap – check; green peppers – check; onions – check; tomatoes – check.  As we were standing in the check out lane, my phone rang.  It was Lisa.

“Honey, I blacked out in the shower.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I feel dizzy and weak.  I had to crawl to the phone.”

“I’ll be right there.”

I quickly paid, and we ran to the car.  Thinking back on it, perhaps I shouldn’t have taken the time to pay.  But the damn science project was about to be due, and we had weeks of rotting vegetables we had to observe.

When I got home, Lisa was in bed and was waiting for a call back from the surgeon – it could be hours.  So I began the process of chopping up our veggies while Stephanie made labels to identify each one.

For the Science Fair, you have to complete your experiment three times.  The teacher wants to make sure that you are fully tortured – a slight torment just wouldn’t do.

We cut 9 pieces of pepper, 9 pieces of onion and 9 pieces of tomato.  Each piece was labeled and put into its container – Experiment 1, onion, Zip Lock; Experiment 1, onion, sandwich bag; Experiment 1, onion, plastic wrap.  Oh, and we took a photo of each of the 27 veggies along with its label.

We put all of them on a tray and set them in the refrigerator.

About the time we finished, Lisa got the call.  The surgeon wanted us to check back into Duke for a couple of nights so he observe her.  I called my mother-in-law and asked her to come stay with the kids.

About 6:30 pm, I was sitting in the hospital room watching the evening news when my phone rang.


“Yea Steph.”

“You’re not going to believe this.”


“Nana started making a salad with our science project!”

Oh $%&#!  “Seriously?”

Lisa laughed so hard she nearly fell out of her moveable bed.


“How did that happen?”

“I don’t know.  I just walked in the kitchen and she was pulling tomatoes out of the bags and tossing them into a big glass bowl.”

Son-of-a- “Just toss them back into  bags – and make sure the onions go into a bag labeled onion!”

I hung up, unable to speak.  I’d spent three hours chopping, labeling and yes, even photographing vegetables, and Nana was well on her way to creating a scrumptious garden salad with our study.

Lisa consoled me, “This is your first year with the Science Fair baby.  You’re doing a good job.  And seriously, are they going to flunk a kid whose mother has stage IV cancer?”

Both of my kids got A’s that year – probably a nod of sympathy.

This time, Stephanie decided to prove that girls were smarter than boys by seeing which sex could perform better on a word search.  It looks like the girls might have won the 4th grade test.  The planned 7th grade test has hit a snag.  All of the boys have refused to return their parental permission slip to be a science project lacky.

Either they’re scared of the potential results or they are indeed the smartest!

Sunday Post 100: Danny, Jesus’ grandpa

Great news in the Tanner household:  Guess who’s Jesus’ granddad this year in the annual Christmas pageant?  That’s me!

Well, actually, I’m not in the pageant.  But Michelle will be Mary and consequently, that makes me Jesus’ grandpa.

St. Timothy’s School has held a Christmas pageant for something like 40 years, and it’s a really big deal.  The first graders are the angels and shepherds.  The second graders are children around the world.  The thirds make up the chorus and the fourth graders are readers, bell players and fill all the parts.

There are only two female singing parts, Mary and the Angel.  Many of the girls tried out for both, but Miss Priss wanted to be Mary.  She said it wasn’t that big of a deal if she didn’t get it but that the angel had too many lines.  I think there are three.  I believe she just wanted to hold the baby Jesus.

In my opinion, the pageant is the most special extracurricular activity at the school all year-long.  It has real significance for me.

Lisa worked at the school and always helped coordinate the 4th grade readers in the pageant.  It was important to her to ensure that they knew their parts and spoke clearly in the microphoneless chapel at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.

In 2009, Stephanie played Mary in the pageant.  It actually fell the week Lisa had surgery to remove the tumor from her colon.  So the week before, the school planned a special dress rehearsal just for Lisa.  We were escorted in and sat on the front row where we had a clear view of our beautiful daughter.

The Christmas Carols that the kids sing are beautiful and moving in the small traditional sanctuary.  The sound bounces off the walls and encircles you.  It was a beautiful service and Stephanie was amazing.

As all of the angels and shepherds departed from the room, I put my arm around Lisa.  She was crying – I’m sure emotionally drained from all she had and was about to face.

When Lisa left school that afternoon, she told her mother, “They all think I’m going to die.”

“Well you’re not,” her mother assured her.

That was the last day Lisa stepped foot on St. Timothy’s campus, and they were right.

I think it was very fitting that Lisa got to see the Christmas pageant on her last day at a school she’d given so much to.

I’ve seen the pageant nine times.  I’ve seen DJ grow from a tiny blonde curly-headed angel to a 4th grade bell-ringer.  Stephanie wore the family costume Aunt Sallie brought back from South Africa for her 2nd grade debut as a “child around the world.”  She’s aged out now.

And this is it for Michelle – and she’s going out with a bang.

It’s time.  Lisa is gone, and the kids have aged out.  And I must let go.

Sunday Post 42: The Ostrich

Posted by Danny

I often just miss the little things.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps its a lack of focus or maybe a tad too much self-absorption.  This trait didn’t instantly appear due to grief; I think I’ve always been this way.  I’m just not aware of the small things that I could do to make others’ lives a little bit better.

Last week I stumbled into a tiny opportunity and took it without realizing what I’d done.

A mother from Michelle’s school sent an email to the other parents in the class asking if someone could cover her lunch duty.  At our school, parents cover lunch once a week so that the teachers can have one day to eat in peace.  I never signed up to help with this task (I’m sure I had more important things to do).

When I got the email, I glanced at my calendar and realized that I didn’t have a lunch meeting on the day she needed help so I shot a quick reply that I could help.  I didn’t want to sound too eager in the event some other parent had already volunteered, although I was glad to take on this 30 minute role.

When she responded that I got the job, I entered it into my calendar and didn’t think another thing about it.

The next night when I arrived home, Michelle greeted me at the door. 

“Dad, are you doing lunch duty for my class on Thursday?”

“Actually, I am.  How did you find out?”

“My teacher told me.  She said, ‘Mrs. Jones was coming to class on Wednesday for an art project and that Mr. Tanner was the parent volunteer for lunch this week.’  I said, ‘He is?’  I couldn’t believe it!  You never do lunch duty!” 

I gave her a hug and moved on about the business of cooking dinner.  When we sat down to eat, I tossed out my usual conversation started, “OK, it’s that time!  Tell me the best thing that happened to you today.”

Michelle jumped in, “My best thing was when my teacher told me that you were coming to lunch at my school tomorrow!”  

That sweet little comment knocked the wind out of me.  The best thing that happened to my child on Wednesday was finding out that I was spending 30 minutes at her school – WOW.

She did warn me not to do my stupid magic tricks at the lunch table – that they were in third grade now and that they wouldn’t be amused.  So I didn’t.  Instead, after leaving the dining room, I did my ostrich impression across the school blacktop.  In fact, I taught all of the kids how to do it, and we ran back and forth four or five times, necks protruding, arms dangling out and knees bobbing up and down toward our armpits.

Michelle rolled her eyes, but she ran along with us laughing all the way.

I want to learn how to make more joy for my kids – and really for the world.  If all it takes is 30 minutes and an animal impression, it just isn’t a very hard thing to do.

Hiding Out From Child Protective Services

she looks fine to me

Posted by Jesse

I can’t believe this happened again.

I offer to drive the morning shift all the time (by “offer” I mean I stumble into the kitchen two minutes before departure time, sparsely dressed, one eye open, and grunt “need me to drive? no? cool.”) but Danny handles it almost every day. He says he enjoys the time in the car with the girls and I enjoy the extra sleep enough to believe him.

But once every two weeks or so Danny has an early meeting, and I get the morning shift.

Late in the spring we had one such morning. The girls were eating cereal and I was making lunches, when Michelle begin mixing tears with her milk. It should be noted that encountering her melancholy countenance in the a.m. is NOT a rare occurrence. It can be triggered by a frustrating bout with hair, a missing button on a skirt, or not getting the prize in the cereal box. Or, apparently, an upset stomach.

“I don’t feeeeeel gooooood,” she sobbed.

Uh-oh. Two things come into play here:

1) The Tanner family (Danny’s parents) and the Katsopolis family (my parents) handled sick days very differently. He likes to claim we weren’t allowed to miss school if we revealed a severed appendage dangling loosely off of our bodies. I like to tease that he was basically home-schooled since “sick days” meant any day he had gym. Both are exaggerations. Slight exaggerations.

2) I am not about to be the sucker Uncle who gets played! And, to be totally honest, I hate having to bother Danny when I’ve got “kid duty” because he won’t ask for help unless he really needs it, meaning he’s either got an important meeting or he’s taking his quarterly night out to socialize. I try to avoid contacting him if at all possible. His over-caring self would literally feel guilty that one of his girls got sick on a morning he wasn’t there.

So I did the thermometer thing. Normal enough. I inspected for unusually pale (or green) skin complexion. Other than her claim of not feeling good, I couldn’t see any obvious sign of illness. I worked at Camp Sea Gull for over a decade, and the nurses have told me repeatedly that a stomach ache with no other symptoms is usually just something else. Michelle probably forgot to do her homework and was dreading facing the teacher.

I cracked a few jokes, got a smile or two out of her, got the other two girls in on the “buck up, kid, you’ll be fine by lunch” routine, and we were off.

She threw up on her desk around 9:30 a.m.

If there were a place you could go to voluntarily be lashed with a whip, I’d have signed up in hopes of relieving my guilt.

Fast forward to last week. I’m on morning duty again, and again we have morning tears. This day Michelle is going on a field trip, so she’s picking out an outfit rather than wearing her usual uniform–a source of much consternation, since she has to choose between shorter-legged jeans (tapered? capri’ed? cuffed? what do you call those things?) that leave her a bit chilly or the longer jeans that will almost certainly get a bit wet. I know where this choice will go–Michelle HATES wet jeans. But she’s not happy being chilly either.

“I don’t feel good,” she let it be known. But–Stephanie can attest–there was no force behind this statement. No insistence. I was sure it was all about the jeans. I didn’t even take her temperature.

Her teachers did. She had a fever of 102. Though, I’d like to point out, that was a reading taken after being outside and doing some creek stomping, so I think when I am on trial my lawyer will be able to make a good case that you cannot prove she was actually sick when I dropped her off.

Regardless….don’t tell Michelle, but next time I’m driving the morning shift? She’s got a four-word “get out of school free” card if she’s smart enough to play it. Blame Danny–he’s the fool who leaves me in charge of these girls.


Lord give us strength – it’s May

Posted by Danny

I already struggle with February –   Now I’m growing to dislike May.  Is it humanly possible to cram one more event into a 30 day period of time?

I have observed 6 hours of dance classes this month.  Six is not a big number if you are talking about pieces of paper.  It is a very large number if you’re talking about hours of dance class observation.  But I’ll have to admit, my girls are graceful and beautiful!  I think they get their dance genes from me.

I’ve completed four permission slips for school trips this month.  Michelle came home one day and said, “If you don’t turn my permission slip in by tomorrow, I can’t go to the movie with my class.”  I dug it out of the recycle bin – it was sandwiched between her cursive writing assignment and her dot to dot drawing of a bunny.  Does the school really need specific permission from me to take my kid to a movie?  Is she safe?  Is she having fun?  Can I get a full day of work in?  Will she be back by dinner?  If it’s not rated R and if the answers to those questions are yes, by all means, take her!  You don’t need my special permission! 

We’ve gone to 10 extra chorus practices to prepare for end of year performances. 

We’ve been confirmed and had three events surrounding that special occasion.  We also had confirmation homework to complete and a “test”.  If you fail do you go to hell?

The cotillion crash course was held four evenings in a row the first week of May and Michelle wrote in her school journal that she didn’t know why she was going to stupid cotillion because “she already knew all of her manners.”  I beg to differ.

Open House at school was the weekend before the crash course on manners.  At the end of 5th grade, our art teacher gives parents a booklet with our kid’s self portraits from K – 5th grade.  I’ll have to admit I teared up looking through Stephanie’s pics.  But no time for crying – I had another event to get to.

I accidentally purchased a $300 desk at the school auction for Stephanie and participated in the Soul Train line at the 70’s themed event.  I’m trying to loosen up a bit. 

We’ve had end of year church programs and end of year classroom events, youth Sunday and a summer camp reunion.  The Athletic Banquet is Monday.  I need to bake a “goodie” for a teacher this week.  I wonder if she likes Goldfish.

There were physicals for summer camp and, of course, the dental appointments happen to fall in May.  There are 11 other months and ours fall in May???

DJ has exams coming up and I’m desperately searching for two missing library books (they can withhold your report card for that!).  Amelia frickin’ Bedelia.  They’re probably buried under socks.

Three graduation parties are headed our way for DJ – and she’s only completed the 8th grade.  I didn’t graduate from 8th grade – I just rode the bus home on that Friday and watched Gilligan’s Island while my mom fried salmon balls for dinner.

Yet to come:  piano recital, chorus performance, and Awards Chapel.

I can’t wait for June – Topsail Beach – we’ll be there soon!

Stranded! (without internet)

Posted By Uncle Jesse

Danny has been making this face for a couple of days. I know he’s able to keep perspective, but it really is frustrating when the internet is down at the house. But help is on the way–sometimes we wait out an internet glitch, but this one has persisted for a couple days so Danny called a a service guy.

I already knew Danny wrote a lot more than I did on the blog. He reminds me almost daily. What I didn’t know was just how clockwork-regular his posting had been. We had people calling and emailing the house making sure everything was ok when Danny didn’t post on Wednesday! Yes, readers, we are ok. The internet has been down, but somehow we have survived. I had to spend more time in a Starbucks than I would have liked sending in an article on Wednesday night, and Danny may have to atone for the cursing he did when he realized he lost some of his work when it went out, but all in all we came through it unscathed.

Here’s what’s been happening this week:

Tanners back in the Capital

I bet DJ wishes she had her sisters in D.C. with her this time

DJ took a trip with the rest of 8th grade to Washington, D.C. (with a stop at King’s Dominion on the way home!).  The picture to the left is actually from our D.C. trip in January. DJ doesn’t have her phone with her, so she hasn’t sent any pictures from this trip. Funny story about that phone….

Apparently the students were asked to not take their phones, only DJ heard from others that some parents were letting them. She told Danny she wanted to take her phone just to call/text to check in at night. Danny told her he didn’t think she was supposed to but he would check with some other parents to see what they were doing. But the discussion was interrupted and Danny forgot what was finally decided upon.

When the phone wasn’t where Danny thought he had last seen it when DJ left, he thought perhaps she had taken it with her. He wasn’t exactly ticked, because he admitted they had never really settled the matter. But he wasn’t exactly happy either. I was actually kind of curious as to how he would handle. But then I spotted her phone in her room. What a kid.

Blue Streak

One thing I like about the girls’ school is the traditions they have and keep year after year. One of the best is Blue-White Day, where the school is split down the middle–half Blue, half White–and the two sides compete against each other in a series of activities. Then the points are tallied and one side reigns supreme for the year.

it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you gear up beforehand

From what I’ve been told, White had been dominant for a number of years. But last year we reversed that trend, when the 3rd-5th grade Blue team members rallied late for the win. I was actually in attendance; Stephanie was a little upset at the time that Lisa would not be in attendance as she had been for every Blue-White Day. The Tanner girls don’t win a lot of heats in the competition, so it’s nice to get a hug for the effort. I filled in for Lisa, who did her part by smiling down upon the Blue team (or maybe to point talliers).

Well, Blue kept it going this year with another overall win! Stephanie practiced her hula-hooping and did her best. DJ was on a Blue basketball team…and had a cool outfit. I actually was unable to make it to this year’s Blue-White Day because….

Working Man

I’m starting a new job Monday. Overall this is a good thing, but it’s been a bit of a tough sell around the Tanner house. Stephanie wanted me to come to Blue-White Day again, but I had to train at the new job. I won’t be able to substitute teach and be around the school quite as much. I won’t be able to stop by for lunch (I wouldn’t say this was a weekly occurrence any way, but I did drop in with some Panera from time to time).

But they’ve been happy for me, too. Stephanie told me she was proud of me when I told her I’d be on the radio every day.

Have a good weekend, Real Full House readers.

You Never Even Call Me By My (First) Name

Posted by Jesse

We should all just have one name like Rihanna.

Danny’s got business out of town this weekend, which means I’ll be handling the girls, which on the weekend typically means releasing them to or receiving them from other parents in a series of social events and recreational activities. Take one to the mall, take two to tennis lessons, get back the one from the mall plus a friend, send one to a birthday party with a car pool, drop another at a play date and have her dropped back off later….the usual. I can generally handle it, plus the girls know roughly where they’re supposed to be when, PLUS Danny types every move up on a schedule he leaves on the kitchen counter when he departs (note: he’s a bit of a nerd, but I’m really not cracking on him here. If I were leaving my kids with me, I’d leave a few notes around. And call. Often)

But what I really need is for him to start typing the names of the adults I am likely to encounter on these activities. Full names. Because I have this conversation a lot:

Kimmy Gibbler’s Dad: “Well, I think Stephanie and Kimmy had a great time at the party.”

Me: “I’m sure they did. Thanks again for driving, Mr. Gibbler”

Kimmy Gibbler’s Dad: “Please, call me Tom.”

Which I would be happy to do. Except I had no idea what the man’s first name is. Danny already explained his own difficulty in remembering names, and I’m not much better. But this is a more specific phenomenon.

Not too say I’m popular, but even before moving in with the Tanners I had a few friends. I grew up in big schools and a large church. I worked at a large summer camp. I lived in a few different cities. All of which is to say I’m in a few large pools of friends. Moving in with the Tanners added a whole new pool of people. Actually it was more like adding an ocean. School friends, swimming club friends, church friends, neighbors, friends of the girls (and their parents) (and their siblings), Danny’s friends (and their kids)…they are all now my friends.

And don’t get me wrong: we are grateful for every one of them. Danny and I occasionally remark on how much of an impact all of our collective friends have had on the past year, and how much more difficult situations like this must be for folks who are more alone (side note: maybe this weekend would be a good one to reach out to a cancer-surviving family? Not us! We’re good this weekend).

But it’s a lot of people. And I only had about two months of grace period before I felt like I couldn’t ask for names anymore because I had probably been introduced to everyone. So there I am, walking around at one of the Stephanie’s birthday sleepovers, asking DJ and Michelle to tell me who is who. And I’ve learned some. I am almost positive I can name, at sight, each of the girls’ 5-10 best friends (probably a few more for DJ than Michelle, since I see the older kids more and typically they’re easier to remember as they develop a little more personality).

Teachers are especially difficult because I only ever hear to them referred to by their last name! But they’re especially important because they were also Lisa’s co-workers and good friends. Some of them have clearly spotted the look of unfamiliarity on my face and have introduced (or re-introduced) themselves. Thank you, Mrs. (Sharon) Keen!

It only added to the headache when I took on the role of Cross Country coach at the girls’ school (sorry, Stephanie, that does in fact mean you have to run on the team next year….or walk home after school). I’m there on day one, and because I do believe names are important I am trying my darndest to learn all of the kids’ full names as quickly as possible. But, of course, it’s also the one day that the parents dropping off are going to introduce themselves, meaning while I’m fretting about making some kid feel left out in the first week because he’s the one name I don’t remember, my window of opportunity to scoop up some adult first names is closing rapidly. (this also leads to an off-shoot of the “parents I only know by last name”; the “parents I know by their abbreviated email handles”).

So let’s just pick a round number and say I have met 800 new people that I know interact with through Danny and the girls. That’s a lot of new names, right? But of these 800 many, as I’ve pointed out, are related. Thus the number of new families would be more like 250 or 300, a much more manageable number. And, unless you’re a hyper-educated, uber-progressive like my sister Sallie, most people in the same family have the same last name. And that’s the one I work hardest to learn.

Yes, I was raised to respect my elders and greet them with formal names. Yes, I tend to think of myself as perpetually 18 and much more a part of DJ’s generation than, ugh, her parents. But to be honest…I’m probably calling you Mr. or Mrs. because, even if deep down I knew it was Tom, my thought process probably went something like this:

.…there’s an adult I should know…..whose friend is it….it’s one of DJ’s friends….no Stephanie….no DJ…’s Kimmy’s Dad….or is it Maggie’s….no it’s Kimmy’s….Kimmy Gibbler….he’s Mr. Gibbler…he’s….he’s…I think he’s Tom Gibb–

“Hellllloooo, Mr. Gibbler!”

Siblings fair no better with me. If I see Kimmy’s little brother and the name doesn’t pop in fast enough, I just call him Mr. Gibbler, too, only I say it with inflection as if I’m saying a cool nickname so as not to give away the fact that I’m clueless.

“Ah, yes. Mista Gibblerrrr.”

It’s enough of a task being able to put the right parent with the right child and siblings. No one notices how much I beam when DJ has multiple friends over to spend the night, and the next morning I am able to correctly identify which child is being picked up just by seeing their parent.

“Kimmy, doesn’t your Dad drive a grey suburban? I think he’s here.”

To be fair, I try to return the favors when it comes to learning names. When I started hanging around the school one of the teachers said, “Well what should I call you, because I only know and hear of you as Uncle Hayes?”

“Well if it’s easiest you can just call me Uncle Hayes.”

And so she does.

The High School Decision

Posted by Danny

Lisa would have handled the high school search for DJ.  The applications, the visits, the entrance exams.  I would have been informed at some point where my daughter was going to school.  Of course I would have been consulted on finances if it was not a public institution; but, the decision would have fallen squarely to Lisa and DJ.

I don’t want to make that decision.  I like being told. 

Now it falls to me.

I have completed more bubble forms on-line than the average junior taking the PSAT.  I have typed in my address on four applications, two standardized tests, and on multiple scholarship forms. 

We have shadowed at four schools and attended five orientations.  At this point, I can’t tell you which one is  all girls and which one requires uniforms (I think there is one of each). 

I really liked the Catholic school.  I’d sort of like to be Catholic.  I REALLY like the idea of confession.  I know, I know, God forgives if we just ask.  But I like the idea of spilling the beans to someone through a small brown wooden wall and being given specific tasks to clear the slate.  When it comes down to it, I guess my desire to bear my soul isn’t a sound reason to choose a high school for DJ.

The private school in North Raleigh was beautiful.  The classes were small and the campus reminded me of my visit to Harvard a few years ago.  It was very impressive.  But, it was a pretty long drive from our house AND I would have had to sell at least one child and Jesse to be able to afford the tuition.  I considered that option, but wasn’t sure I could handle the annual clothes clean out without him.

Our base school is a large public school  where Lisa and her siblings attended.  Had she been alive, that’s probably where we would have landed.  DJ visited and enjoyed her day but she came home and said, “It’s really big.  And those were some long, boring classes.”  With my inability to be involved and stay on top of things – that concerned me.  She gets enough boring at home; I’m not sure she can take any more.

Much to her chagrin, I required her to attend the orientation for the local charter school.  It has a great reputation for academics…they stressed to the parents that the kids would have hours and hours of homework each night.  That’s punishment for me!  I’m not sure that I want to be in homework purgatory the next four years myself.  Plus, DJ “hears” that there are only nerds and geeks at that school.  She gets enough of that at home as well.

We have also received four – yes four – complete packets of information from another private school that we haven’t even applied to – I think they may send her class schedule and a bus to pick her up in August unless I drive over there and tell them we are not attending.

After much deliberation, a couple of fights, prayer (at least by my mom – I usually save my personal requests for bigger things like wives with cancer and purpose in life), and a “Are You Absolutely Sure” meeting in DJ’s bedroom, the decision has been made.

In August, DJ will attend St. Mary’s School!  It is a small girl’s school here in Raleigh with a stellar reputation for tough academics and incredible support.  I’ll have to admit I was a bit reluctant about a school  with no boys.  Although I think it’s great not to have that distraction in class, I do want my daughter to have a date before she turns 36.  But this school has a huge focus on making confident leaders out of the young women who attend.  And I can’t argue with that.

Several years ago Lisa went to an open house at St. Mary’s just to hear what they had to say.  She came home and told me, “I know we could never afford St. Mary’s but when you sit and hear their schpill, you just want to drop your kid off when she gets into 9th grade and pick her up when she graduates!” 

I think she’d approve of the decision.

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